Styling Your Home for an Open House (Even if You Aren’t Having One)

Do you ever look at glossy pictures in magazines, or layouts on sites like Houzz.com, or wander through an Open House just for inspiration, and turn several shades of green — none of which are flattering? Of course none of those gorgeous rooms look like that every day with the family coming and going, kids doing homework at the dining room table, and pets curling up on the vanilla colored sofa. But if you want a home that looks that great even part of the time you need to apply a few tactics that are a professional home stylist’s stock in trade.

Too Much of Anything is Just Too Much

One reason those rooms look so lovely is that there is nothing in them that doesn’t serve a purpose of form or function. We go through the rooms in our own homes many times a day — until we no longer really see the items that have accumulated in them. So we don’t notice when the little touches turn into overwhelm and clutter.

Try starting with one room and removing everything that isn’t essential to the room’s function. Get a feel for the lines of the room with only the basic furniture in place. Add one or two pieces at a time. Try bringing in items from other rooms. Leave the room frequently and enter again, paying attention to how your eyes and mood respond to the arrangement. Don’t be afraid to leave a spot bare for a day or so if you aren’t sure what belongs in the space. If you have a hard time deciding what goes and what stays try putting anything that doesn’t seem to work now in the basement, or the junk room, or even in a storage unit if necessary. You’ll never achieve that soothing sense of order if there is too much “stuff” in the space.

Pair it, Group it, and Get it Away From the Walls

You’ll notice that those pictures show most living areas with the seating positioned away from the walls and grouped invitingly so that you can just imagine sitting down for a cozy chat with your bestie.  Believe it or not, that arrangement isn’t just inviting, getting the furniture off the walls makes the room look larger too.

Light it Up

Many of those beautifully staged homes look welcoming because they’re properly lit. Try increasing the wattage in your lamps and fixtures — the best standard is a total of 100 watts for each 50 square feet. And use a combination of ambient light, which usually comes from the overhead fixtures, task lighting, which are pendants or under the counter lights designed to illuminate a work space, and accent lighting, which you can achieve with wall sconces, floor lamps, and table lamps.

Use Color Wisely

Color is a wonderful way to express your personal taste, but it has many effects on space that we don’t take into account when we’re looking at a tiny paint chip. It can make rooms appear larger or smaller, warmer or cooler, richer or (no, not poorer) more casual. It’s hard to go wrong with midtone neutrals — think mocha, greyed beiges, soft blue-greens, or honeyed creams. If you want a small room to appear even larger choose a color that is very close to the color of the room it opens into. If you want it to look larger still match the window treatment to the walls. This method creates a sophisticated backdrop for artwork or personal items that add a pop of color and personality.

However, rooms that you want to have that intimate, cozy feeling can definitely do with a deeper tone. A bedroom or guest bath, for instance, might get that polished nest look from reds or purples. A small accent wall is a good place for a contrasting color, especially if it has windows, a fireplace, or built in bookshelves that break up the color.

Use Fabrics to Tie it Together

Texture, color, and definition of space can all be achieved with the addition of area rugs. Establish a seating area by arranging the furniture at the edges of a woven rug. Add cushions or upholstered chairs and foot rests. Recover the seats on a row of bar stools with a nubby fabric in contrasting colors. Use place settings or runners on the dining table. No matter how you choose to use it, fabric is a great way to add personality without overwhelming the space.

Whatever your personal style or budget, using even a few of these techniques can turn your dream home even dreamier.


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